I don't think I have ever seen an industry so full of dishonnest people as horses. It really saddens me, and I can't understand why is it so prevalent? Buying a trailer, buying tack, no matter. Lots of dishonnest folk.
I did have a good horse buying experince with my last horse. I researched the PERSON more than the horse to see what kind of person they were. When I went to buy my daughter a horse, I bought one with an undisclosed medical issue. I guess I deserved it because I didn't research the person well.
It sounds terrible, but, my state I live in has a way to search court records online. I do that, and, if they are on facebook, I go to see if the are friends with others I know, or other horse people I do trust. I am currently looking still for a horse for my daughter. I have one that I am hiring an old lesson person I went to years ago to go and ride, before I even bother to make the 6 hour round trip to look at it. The person checks out with a background check, and, refrences, not sure if the horse will though. We will see.
I would say the most important thing is to also always take someone who knows your riding ability and knows lots about horses with you. Always get a horse with less go than you think. (if you are an advanced beginner, get a beginner friendly horse and so forth.).
When I was looking for my gelding, I actually started telling folks it was for my daughter then, because "some" of them felt bad about selling a bronc to a child. Not all though. This spring I was minutes from looking at a horse and finalizing directions, when I spoke to the wife instead of husband She said "Oh, he's great, I work him a little before my kids get on, but, otherwise great." That was intresting, because her husband swore he had no buck in him! Promptly cancled that appointment.
Karma can be awful, that is all I will say. I think that Girl who got her horse back from me that had the medical issue is having issues with her new horse because she has him for sale I saw. So sad. Apparently she didn't get what she thought she was getting either!